Singapore stocks jump after Covid easing

SINGAPORE – Asia-Pacific markets struggled for direction on Thursday as yesterday’s 5% jump in oil prices took a break.

Shares in Singapore outperformed the broader Asia-Pacific region, with the Straits Times index climbing 0.8% as the country’s prime minister on Thursday announced plans to ease Covid restrictions.

Shares of travel-related stocks were up, with Singapore Airlines and Sats – which provides ground-handling and in-flight catering services – jumping more than 3% each.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index recovered from earlier losses to sit 0.19% higher.

Shares of Chinese tech giant Tencent, however, dropped around 3% in Hong Kong after the firm on Wednesday posted its slowest revenue growth on record. Tencent also said it is ‘exploring’ a financial holding company for WeChat Pay if required by Chinese regulators.

Other Chinese tech stocks in Hong Kong were mixed, with Alibaba up 0.94% and NetEase slipping 0.66%.

Bank of Communications International’s Hao Hong said Chinese internet stocks are “very, very cheap” at the moment, citing Alibaba’s recent announcement to up its share buyback program.

“If you have a longer-time horizon, even though the market is very volatile, it is still worthwhile to take a look at these names,” Hong, managing director and head of research at the firm, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.

In mainland China, the Shanghai composite declined 0.54% while the Shenzhen component shed 0.934%.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan declined 0.26%, shedding some of its 3% jump from Wednesday. The Topix index fell 0.27%.

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South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.53%.

In Australia, the S & P / ASX 200 climbed 0.22%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded 0.17% lower.

Oil watch

Investors monitored oil moves after prices rose on Wednesday.

In the afternoon of Asia trading hours on Thursday, international benchmark Brent crude futures slipped 0.29% to $ 121.25 per barrel, still much higher than levels below $ 112 seen earlier in the week.

US crude futures declined 0.74% to $ 114.08 per barrel.

Oil prices have been volatile for weeks since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as investors assess the war’s impact on oil supply along with other concerns such as a Covid outbreak in China.

Currencies

The US dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 98.775 – still above the 98.4 level that is was below earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 121.22 per dollar, weaker as compared to levels below 119.7 seen against the greenback earlier in the week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $ 0.7477, having risen from below $ 0.74 earlier this week.

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